Coast KZN

15 Nov 2019

Dead fish found in Umzimkhulu river

Sugan Naidoo (South Coast Herald) Picture: One of many dead fish seen in the Umzimkulu river on Monday this week.

Authorities wasted no time in determining why scores of dead fish were found in the Umzimkulu river near Batstone’s Drift on Monday this week. Roy Ramnath, vice-chairman of the Umbango River Conservancy spotted the fish and alerted authorities.

“Further upriver from the low level bridge I saw more dead fish. I also noticed a discoloration in the water and wondered what was going on. I contacted the environmental department at Ugu District Municipality, and the response was immediate.”

Ugu spokesman, France Zama said the ash dam at the Umzimkulu Sugar Mill had overflowed on Monday afternoon due to the heavy rainfall.

“The mill closed early for the season last Thursday, due to the high salinity contained in the water supply derived from the river and consequently the circulating pumps from the ash dam to the mill were not operating,” he said.

“The water overflowed from the ash dam, carrying some quantities of ash and undigested molasses into the Umzimkulu river. This resulted in a portion of the river water being discolored and the extra chemical oxygen demand loading from the undigested molasses could have contributed to the fish dying,” said Mr Zama.


“Remedial action was taken to mitigate the risk, including raising the overflow take off point from the main dam and starting up the circulating pumps to empty the smaller holding dams which were overflowing. This has prevented any further discharge into the Umzimkulu river from the said dams.”

Since the intervention there had been a drastic decrease in the chemical oxygen demand count (COD). The pumps would continue to operate optimally to accommodate excess water until the COD count was within the permitted limits, Mr Zama added.

Samples for the COD count will be taken daily, and due to the early closure of the mill there would be no further sugar traces added to the water


“Investigations conducted on Tuesday revealed no discoloration of the river water and the situation is being vigilantly monitored by all departments,” he said.